An Executive Director's point of view
July 14, 2015: Write for your audience
"The...Circuit in this opinion basically upheld the District Court's ruling that denied the appellant's motion for summary judgment."
The problem? Most non-lawyers don't know what a summary judgment is. And they don't need to know whether a motion (whatever that is) was upheld or denied, or at what judicial level the action was taken.
They just need to know who won, who lost, what was the penalty, and if the case is finished or if it was sent on to another court.
When talking to people outside of your industry or profession (and, maybe, to some of your colleagues, too), use lay language. It will not make you sound less professional or less intelligent.
But it will make it more possible for you to successfully communicate with your audience(s).
July 13, 2015: What is collaboration?
One of the keywords they frequently utter is "collaboration."
Does collaboration mean involving a lot of people in the decision-making process? Does it mean discussing things within a group and arriving at a consensus? Does it mean a group votes on everything?
Does it mean providing input to the leader? Does it mean that the leader should invite and welcome input? Does it mean that everybody in a work setting should be equal and there should be no leaders?
Does it mean the creation of a culture where everybody talks about stuff before a decision is made?
If you want to ensure that lots of people have input, then say that. Words like "collaboration" don't mean the same thing to everybody.
July 08, 2015: How to report success
They don't care. They are members and/or customers and/or supporters, not shareholders. They will not benefit financially.
Instead, tell them what new and better services the organization will provide. That's what they care about.
Tell them about new educational programs, improved online registration, better industry alerts, more thorough data analyses, upgraded advocacy efforts, or whatever it is they value from your group.
Tout news about financial growth to your Board, so it will be proud of the organization's ability to deliver more to its audiences (and so it can credit you with helping make that possible).
Not-for-profit organizations exist to deliver more and better services, not to make money. They have to make money to deliver those services, but their success is measured by the services, not by the money.
So, tell everybody about the services, not about the money.
July 14, 2014: Be specific
Many problems occur in associations because people think they've understood what others have said. But many people define words, actions, and situations differently. They may not interpret information in the same way nor be able to read others' signs.
So, be sure you and those with whom you interact understand each other. Clarify terms, restate goals and work directives, repeat discussion summaries, and confirm final decisions - even in writing, if necessary.
Don't be afraid of appearing slow or dumb or unable to remember things. Misunderstandings today can lead to monumental conflicts tomorrow.
January 03, 2014: Ditch the elevator pitch?
July 09, 2013: The tone of your email
Folks post messages in all sorts of ways, and they're usually just trying to get their messages across quickly in whatever way they feel most comfortable.
(I guess you shouldn't be overly concerned about grammar or spelling, either).
June 27, 2013: Bad instructions
But it didn't explain what that meant - nor how to do it.
When offering instructions about anything, don't assume people know what you are saying. Explain things in language users will understand.
June 16, 2013: No more technospeak
Would you hand somebody a document and say, "enclosed, as per your request, please find documents pertaining to the new project?"
It would be better to say, "here are the new project documents you asked about."
Remember, technospeak does not impress people. And industry lingo is gibberish - even to many people in the industry.
May 31, 2013: Just plain dumb
1. It did not tell the consultant that the street name had been changed and now had a different name.
2. It did not tell the consultant that the highway exit ramp listed in the directions had been closed for some time.
3. The consultant called for different directions and was given alternatives - but those had also been closed for some time (the organization admitted that it knew that).
4. When the consultant called again, the switchboard had been closed (during normal business hours) and nobody answered the phone nor returned voicemail messages.
The organization was angry when the consultant arrived late.
April 09, 2013: When somebody dies
Notification should be done in a way that is most likely to reach those people swiftly. Simply posting a notice on Facebook is not the way to achieve that.
When a co-worker dies, use whatever method is most effective for informing people in the office and in the organization.
For everybody else, call them. Those closest to the deceased can call some people and ask them to call others. Yes, you can post on Facebook or LinkedIn, print a newspaper and online obituary, send emails, and announce the event in other venues, to reach a wider audience.
But you should still call the people who are most affected. You'll be able to communicate with them more quickly, better convey the seriousness of the event, and ensure they will know what has happened. Don't wait for them to read about it somewhere.
Facebook posts do not replace personal contact.